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At sixty-four, Alby is one of an estimated 500,000 Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers who had traumatic experiences in institutional and out-of-home ‘care’ as children in the twentieth century.  

Alby is also one of the 16 co-design members of the Helping Hand Aged Care’s Real Care the Second Time Around Project (RCSTA) and wanted to share his story. Many Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers like Alby have a morbid fear of entering aged care.  

Alby was the child of Dutch immigrants and, at four years old, accidentally drank from a bottle of kerosene thinking it was a soft drink. After being rushed to hospital, authorities deemed he was at risk of neglect and he was taken from his parents and three siblings, who didn’t have the connections or English language skills to fight back. Alby was put into an orphanage and placed on what he calls “experimental drugs” that gave him rashes and nightmares and made him wet the bed.  

Every morning if I wet the bed… they’d strip the bed and make me put the wet sheets over my head and march me to the laundry in front of everybody. It was humiliating.

Then there was the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of the staff who ran the orphanage. This continued up until he was able to go back to his family two years later. Alby was ordered to stay on the medication until, at age nine, his mum had mastered English enough to demand he be taken off them. 

But Alby said the damage was done. He had lost all respect for authority.  

The rest of Alby’s childhood and early adult life was spent clashing with schools and police, bouncing in and out of state care, where he repeatedly suffered the same abuses at the hands of institutional leaders and a case of serious abuse by another boy. 

It really scares me to go into an institution again because of what I suffered,” Alby said.

Projects like The Real Care the Second Time Around are so important – and they can’t stop… They give us hope that someone is listening, that changes are being made. You’ve got to understand people’s experiences, otherwise how are you going to provide real care for them?

If the aged care sector was able to recognise and respond well to Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers, they’d be recognising and responding well to everybody.

Image provided by Alby